The team, which had raised $24,221 as of Monday, according to Senior Associate Athletics Director Cheryl Harrison, now has until June 30 to raise more than $1 million. Before the team had struck an agreement with the athletics department — which the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams and men’s outdoor track and field have also done — it had until June 30 to raise the $4.2 million needed for eight years of competition.
“I’m certainly reenergized and excited about the opportunity,” water polo head coach Carl Salyer said. “The girls, on the most part, are focused on this season … they’re trying to do the best they can with the season they are in. I couldn’t expect a group to perform better given the news they received last fall.”
If the team is able to meet its June 30 deadline, it will have until Dec. 31 to raise $2,102,683 and until Dec. 2013 to raise the eight-year figure. In an April 7 release, Athletic Director Kevin Anderson said he hopes the new plan provides the best opportunity for success while maintaining the department’s fiscal responsibility.
“Maryland Athletics is, and must remain, a self-supporting unity, responsible for covering expenses with athletics-related revenues,” Anderson said. “Our commitment to our student-athletes, staff and our fans is to continue to pursue excellence in everything we do.”
In November, university President Wallace Loh announced he would be cutting eight athletic teams to help balance the athletics department’s $83 million debt unless the teams could raise enough money to sustain their programs for eight years. The other seven teams facing elimination are men’s and women’s swimming and diving; men’s outdoor and indoor track; men’s cross country; women’s acrobatics and tumbling; and men’s tennis.
Now that the water polo team has renewed hope, Salyer said even small donations of $5 would help the team by demonstrating widespread support, which the program may need to attract larger donations.
“We’ve talked to some people who are big money donors, and what they want to see is a broad base of support,” he said. “$1 million is still a big number but it’s certainly doable.”
Water polo is faring better than men’s tennis and women’s acrobatics and tumbling, however, which are still millions of dollars short of being able to ensure their programs’ futures at this university. Men’s indoor track and field and men’s cross country cannot compete next year unless another women’s program is able to raise the necessary funds by June 30.
Even though members of women’s water polo are more optimistic about their future at this university, they said they are gearing their efforts toward competition, not financials. The team is preparing to enter the WPA Western Division Championship on Saturday with a 17-4 record, which is the best in program history.
“I think as far as the fundraising is going, our focus right now is on our season and living in the present and just working on our goals,” junior water polo team member Allison Campbell said. “It would be very easy to get stressed out and worry about what’s going to happen next year and have that negatively impact us.”
Sophomore team member Katie Ermakova said even though the team is keeping its eyes on the pool, she’s still relieved the team received a boost toward its fundraising goals.
“Of course raising money is important to save our sport but we just want to compete, and we just want to show we are the best team this year,” Ermakova said.
“If we’re able to raise enough money to save another women’s team, then we can go back and relook at what we looked at for track and field,” Harrison said.
Ryan Bowles, assistant athletic director, said it is still too early to tell how the athletic department will satisfy Title IX requirements, which stipulates the university must offer men’s and women’s teams equal financial support, with the remaining athletics programs.
“We have a long way to go in this thing so we don’t have anything set in stone,” Bowles said. “We don’t have a magic ball to figure out how things are going to turn out. But we anticipate some momentum continuing to pick up.”
Salyer added the athletic department has demonstrated its support for the at-risk teams through fundraising efforts.
“We think we have a good relationship with the athletic department,” he said. “If we manage to save the team, it will be because we did this together.”